In this episode, The Prof (@ProfPlaysGames) and The Dev (@summerspeak) have much to say about the Anthem VIP "demo". What was great, what wasn't, and plenty in between! Also they talk about their second backlog games, and the games they've been playing!
By trade, I'm a professor. That means that I think, constantly, about how to present new information to my students in a way that doesn't overwhelm them, builds on previous information, provides a foundation for future information, and offers them a way to practice immediately useful, relevant skills.
Because of the thousands of hours I've had developing lessons that do those things, my mind is constantly looking for those types of patterns in the real world: in lectures, in textbooks, in sports commentary, and in video games--specifically video game tutorials.
Onboarding a new player into the design and scope of a video game can be a daunting task for a developer and arduous for the player. I cannot count the number of in-game tutorials I've labored through just hoping that they'd end. Why? Usually because they break the rules that I outlined in my first graph: they overwhelm, they don't build on previous material, they do not prepare a gamer for future material, and the skills they teach are not immediately relevant or useful.
What do I mean?
Think of an in-game tutorial you hated. Chances are, alongside useful, early-game mechanics, it frontloaded a ton of information that you could classify as late- or mid-game material--stuff that would be useful later, after you learned all the early-game stuff you need to know to get started in the game world. Without a schema (that foundation I discussed earlier) to situate all that new material on, information about skills you'll use much later (after you master a bunch of earlier skills) is almost useless.
Better to teach the skills needed to begin and provide an inobtrusive mechanism to approach the later skills, well, later. If the tutorial is done well, a player will learn the later skills in the process of playing the game because they'll naturally build on the earlier skills. If the tutorial is done poorly, the game designers will bake another tutorial later into the game, grinding the game's pace to a halt.
Those tips a player sees along a playthrough that explain later mechanics are a tutorial type in this vein. One way I check to see if the sequence of learning happening in a game "builds and prepares" is to turn those tips off. If I encounter new mechanics and don't face any issues, the sequence of new information facilitates easy learning. (Bravo dev team!) If not, then it's clear the new information wasn't seated into the game properly. In that case, if I were advising a company, I'd ask the team to take another look at the opening tutorial mechanics and the process by which the game world teaches players new things.
The best tutorial designs are sequenced; "build and prepare;" and focus, mainly, on what's necessary in the near future.
Which brings me to Magic The Gathering Arena, a game I finally loaded up after much cajoling by the Dev, my podcast counterpart. I recently wrapped up the tutorial, and I walked away with two thoughts: (a) I had forgotten how much I liked playing Magic and (b) these designers know how to onboard new players (and they should, of course...Magic isn't a new game).
The tutorial has five stages, and, in each stage, the player learns a necessary skill to emerge victorious from a specific battle. Then, the next stage builds on those skills and introduces new skills that link the previously learned skills and skills the player will learn in the next stage. First it's playing land cards, then it's tapping those cards, then it's attacking, then it's blocking, then it's ground versus air blocking, then it's card enchantments useful for attacking or blocking, then it's instants and spells useful for attacking or blocking, etc. Each new piece of information is progressively more complex but is seated in something the player just learned. By the end of the tutorial, the player knows enough to get started, and they'll learn further complexities, organically, along the way.
I haven't played much beyond the tutorial, so I am curious to see how the Magic Arena developers continue to onboard new players. As it stands, though, this team knows how to teach new information in a way that is sticky--my term for information that easily moves from short-term to long-term memory (another key element of teaching that I'll probably get into in a future post). My guess, though, is that the onboarding will continue along this well-paced track, making the playing and the learning fun in equal parts.
In this episode, The Prof (@ProfPlaysGames) and The Dev (@summerspeak) dig into their hopes and dreams for Sony in 2019. Then they talk about the games they've been playing: Heroes of the Storm, Spider-Man, Quarantine Circular, Magic Arena, and Dragalia Lost.
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In this episode, The Prof (@ProfPlaysGames) and The Dev (@summerspeak) dive into their backlog for the first time this year! The Prof puts an hour into Invisible, Inc by Klei and the Dev takes The Consortium for a spin. Then it jumps from there into a healthy talk about a number of games they've both been playing; co-op Diablo 2, Gears of War 4, Monster Hunter World, Dragalia Lost, and more.
In this episode, The Prof (@ProfPlaysGames) and The Dev (@summerspeak) look ahead into 2019 and discuss the five games they are hyped for. Then they discuss the games they've been playing lately: Pokemon Let's Go, Monster Hunter World, and Smash Brothers Ultimate. Support our Child's Play donation by supporting our Patreon (search Prof and Dev Play Games on Patreon). $1 tier gets their name and a short message read out on a show during the month; $5 tier gets your question answered on a show during the month.